This season has proven to be a statistical gold mine for the University at Buffalo. Comb through the Mid-American Conference stat leaders and you’ll find a Bull in nearly every category among the top 10.
The ringleader is senior linebacker Khalil Mack, the No. 3 rated linebacker by ESPN’s Mel Kiper and No. 7 prospect overall. The only category where Mack doesn’t rank among the leaders is fumbles recovered, perhaps because he’s too busy forcing them, where he’s tied for the league lead with Toledo defensive end Jayrone Elliott with five.
Mack is already the FBS career leader in forced fumbles and is just 2.5 tackles from becoming the career leader in tackles for loss. A semifinalist for both the Butkus and Bednarik Awards, Mack currently ranks fourth in the MAC in interceptions (three), tied for 10th in passes defended (nine) and 15th in tackles (82).
“I can’t say enough about Khalil and what he has been able to accomplish,” UB coach Jeff Quinn said.
Branden Oliver has deleted his injury-plagued junior year to pace the MAC in average rushing yards per game (137.5) and is tied for second with Toledo’s David Fluellen, the Lockport product, in all-purpose yards (149.2). The Bulls’ senior tailback is third in scoring TDs (8.4) and sixth in overall scoring (8.4).
Oliver will likely break his own single-season rushing record in the Bulls’ regular season finale Friday against Bowling Green at Ralph Wilson Stadium. He has rushed for 1,375 yards and is just 20 yards shy of the mark he set in 2011. Oliver joins Green Bay Packers running back James Starks, the Niagara Falls native, as just the second player in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season twice in a career.
The team took flight when sophomore Joe Licata was inserted as starting quarterback – the Bulls are 11-4 under the former Williamsville South star – and he’s worthy of all-league consideration. Licata ranks fifth in passing average per game (218.8), passing efficiency (140.2) and total offense (217.1).
Kicker Patrick Clarke ranks fifth in scoring kicking (7.0) and field goals (1.09) and ninth in scoring (7.0), while wide receiver Alex Neutz is fourth in receiving yards per game (80.1) and tied for seventh with Bowling Green freshman tailback Williams Houston in touchdown scoring (6.0).
Senior defensive end Colby Way ranks ninth in the conference in sacks (five) and 13th in tackles for a loss (7.5), while corner Najja Johnson is tied for fourth in interceptions (three) and eighth in passes defended (10).
Other Bulls who are among the league leaders include linebacker Lee Skinner who ranks 33rd in tackles with 69, corner Cortney Lester who is tied for fourth in interceptions with three. Also, Devin Campbell is third in the conference in kick return average (23.5), while Tyler Grassman is eighth in punting at 39.9 yards per kick.